UK court upholds Assange arrest warrant

A British judge upheld an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday but delayed until next week her decision on a further application by his lawyers to cancel it.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy since 2012 to dodge a European arrest warrant and extradition to Sweden over a 2010 probe there into rape and sexual assault allegations against him.

Sweden dropped its investigation last year.

But British police are still seeking to arrest Assange for failing to surrender to a court after violating his bail terms during his unsuccessful battle against extradition.

“I’m not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn,” Judge Emma Arbuthnot told a court in London, explaining that Assange had breached his bail conditions in 2012.


But she said she would rule separately on another application from Assange’s lawyers asking her to consider whether it would be in the “public interest” to keep the warrant in place.

That ruling will be issued on February 13.

Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno said the court’s decision did not affect Quito’s attitude.

“The decisions that the court makes definitely have an effect, but they do not determine our decision and we will continue to provide our protection to Mr Assange,” Moreno said at a meeting in Quito with the foreign press.

Moreno, who came to power in May, said he had undertaken from “the first day of his term” to protect Assange, considering his life to be “in danger”.

Ecuador’s foreign ministry said it wants to reach a solution with Britain that satisfies both sides and respects Assange’s human rights.

Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers had argued in court last week that the British arrest warrant had “lost its purpose and its function”.

He said Assange had been living in conditions “akin to imprisonment” and his “psychological health” has deteriorated and was “in serious peril”.

“The last five-and-a-half years that he has spent may be thought to be adequate, if not severe punishment, for the actions that he took,” Summers said.

The court heard that the 46-year-old was suffering from a bad tooth, a frozen shoulder and depression.

But prosecutor Aaron Watkins earlier called Assange’s court bid “absurd”.

“The proper approach is that when a discrete, standalone offence of failing to surrender occurs, it always remains open to this court to secure the arrest,” he said.

Assange has refused to leave the embassy, claiming he fears being extradited to the United States over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year said his arrest was a “priority”.

‘Face justice’

Assange only very rarely emerges onto the balcony of the embassy building, citing concerns for his personal safety, but he frequently takes part in media conferences and campaigns via video link.

Ecuador in December granted citizenship to the Australian-born Assange, and asked Britain to recognise him as a diplomat, in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him with immunity and usher him out of its embassy without the threat of arrest.

But London swiftly rejected the move.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the British government said.

Assange has strained the patience of his hosts during his long stay.

He was publicly reprimanded for interfering in the 2016 US election after publishing emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign team.

More recently, he drew the ire of Moreno when he used Twitter to issue messages of support for Catalonia’s independence drive. The Ecuadoran president was forced to respond to complaints from the Spanish government.

Moreno admitted last month Assange was an “inherited problem” that had created “more than a nuisance” for his government.

“We hope to have a positive result in the short term,” Moreno said in an interview with television networks.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Robin Millard
Guest Author

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Vodacom swindled out of more than R24m worth of iPhones

A former employee allegedly ran an intricate scam to steal 8700 phones from the cellular giant

Come what may, the UIF will pay

The fund – the main safety net for unemployed workers – will run at an almost R20-billion deficit

More top stories

We will find resources to ensure the Zondo commission completes...

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says his department will ensure the state capture commission is afforded the financial resources to complete its work, despite the treasury’s uncertainty

Covid-19 variant may protect people against reinfection and other variants,...

The 501Y.V2 strain produces strong antibodies, but it’s not known how long immunity lasts, so being vaccinated remains essential

Tobacco industry calls Dlamini-Zuma’s bid to appeal ban a...

The minister could spend the state’s money on fighting Covid-19 and cigarette cartels, tobacco manufacturers argue

Zondo commission: Glencore sold Optimum to portray me as a...

Former Eskom chief executive paints himself as the victim of a plot at the hands of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s former business associates
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…